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Spinal Cord Injury: Know your Spine!

Spinal cord injuries are becoming very prevalent with nearly 10-15000 reported cases, each year in a developed country. These injuries are basically associated with the accidental trauma, damaging structural as well as functional integrity of the spine; leaving behind a crippled patient and his family along with their struggle to cope up with the catastrophe. Although, in order to be familiar with possible availability of treatment options, one has to be aware of the basic spinal cord anatomy; in this regard the current write up will help you to understand your spine.

The spinal cord is made up of millions of nerves that have been wrapped through a myelin sheath and are packed inside the secure covering of 31 butterfly shaped vertebrae. Anatomically the structure is being divided into four distinct regions depending upon their functional attributions. Exact location of the region of injury is the key to find diagnostic aid as well as effective treatment support. Accordingly the spinal cord regions are categorized as:

Cervical Spinal Cord

The top most portion of the spine has been named as the cervical spinal cord and is primarily responsible for connecting the central nervous system with rest of the organs of the body. The eight vertebrae section performs many crucial functions, such as housing the important messages from brain to rest of the body through important blood brain barrier, protecting the bundle of nerves, supporting and adding flexibility to the head, ensuring proper flow to the brain, etc. Number of vertebrae associated with the region is been identified as C1-C8.

Thoracic Spinal Cord

The section refers to the middle section of the vertebrae, numbered from T1-T12. It mainly supports the back side of the chest and is primarily structured for the stability. This part of the spinal cord plays an important role in holding the body in an upright position; and hence provides protection to the critical organs of the body. The said intricate structure of the spine; enclosing nerves, connecting tissues and other crucial segments is a primary source of pain.

Lumbar Spinal Cord

The lower region of the spinal cord, associated with its inward curve towards the abdomen is referred to as a lumbar spinal cord. It is comprised of five vertebrae that have been numbered from L1-L5. Being at the lower extremities, the segment of the spine is specifically used for strength as well as flexibility. It is generally connected with sacrum at the Lumbosacral joints (L5-S1), is used for considerable rotation allowing easy coordination between pelvis and hips, while walking or running.

Thus, by pinpointing  the exact location of the injury; one can help in accurate prognosis. Although, injuries can be of any type; the most common amongst them are:

Quadriplegia

Quadriplegia usually results as a result of injury to the cervical spine, causing paralysis of all the limbs and hence are identified to be the most severe. These kinds of injuries eliminate an ability to undergo any kind of movement, adding up complete dependency to the individual’s life.

Paraplegia

The type of injury is associated with thoracic spine, involving loss of movement as well as sensation from the lower half of the body; including legs, hips, etc.

Apparently injuries below the lumbar spinal cord can typically be associated with loss of sensation in lower half of the body.

Thus, at present steroidal drugs as well as other rehabilitative approach can only be extended as a treatment to the spinal cord injuries. Contrary to which, alternative medicine like stem cells therapy has been observed to have a better beneficial impact on treatment outcome. Worldwide clinical studies have confirmed the safety as well as clinical efficacy of the sem cells and hence can be thought as a viable alternative to conventional medicine.

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Stem cells Treatment for Atrophic Optic Nerve

Optic Nerve Atrophy is damage to the optic nerve causing visual loss. Medically, optic nerve atrophy can be linked with the sudden degeneration of retinal ganglion cells, which have been structured to form an optic nerve. The condition can as well be referred to as Atrophic Optic Nerve, and/or optic neuropathy.

Optic nerve atrophy can be an indication of end stage neural damage, anywhere along the path of a visual function. As a matter of fact, optic nerve plays a very pivotal role in transmitting nerve signals that have been received through the eye and pass it on to the central nervous system; in order to visualize an image.  Since, optic nerve is damaged in optic nerve atrophy; transmission of important information to the brain can be halted severely, thus causing visual damage. Moreover, optic nerve atrophy can indicate different complicated conditions, such as neurodegenerative disorders. Some of the common predisposing factors, associated with the conditions can be:

  • Physical damage to the eye
  • Genetic Predisposition
  • History of neurological disorders
  • Increased Blood pressure
  • Environmental triggers

Apparently, above mentioned parameters are only risk factors; whereas causes can be altogether different and can be noted as:

  • Decreased blood supply (ischemia) or oxygen supply (hypoxia) causing swelling/ Stroke
  • Tumor
  • Trauma/Shock/Radiation
  • Heredity
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Toxins (Alcohol/tobacco/ other poisons)
  • Infection
  • Degenerative disorders
  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetes
  • Temporal arteritis
  • Autoimmune disorders (multiple sclerosis/ SLE/Sarcoidosis)
  • Medicines

Some of the common symptoms and signs are:

  • Complete loss of vision
  • Reduced vision- central/periphery
  • Reduced colour vision/ colour seems faded
  • Ability to see fine details is lost
  • Bulging of the eyes
  • Dimming or blurring of vision
  • Double vision
  • Eye redness
  • Involuntary movement of the eyes
  • Seeing blind spots in your peripheral vision
  • Seeing rainbows or halos
  • Severe eye or brow pain or pain when moving the eye

Signs

  • Pallor of optic nerve
  • Pupil- reaction to light sluggish
  • Pupil- reaction to light absent
  • Visual acuity
  • Eye pressure
  • Papilloedema

Conventional treatment regimen for atrophic optic nerve include, generalized physiotherapy related to eye and steroidal medications. Damage from optic nerve atrophy cannot be reversed. The underlying disease must be diagnosed and treated. Else, vision loss continues. Rarely, conditions that lead to optic atrophy may be treatable.

Outlook (Prognosis): Vision lost to optic nerve atrophy cannot be recovered. It is essential to protect the other eye.

Alternative treatment with Stem cells has shown promising results in visual recovery after optic nerve atrophy. Stem Cells are the unique core cells of the body, with the potential ability to differentiate into cells of different lineages. The technology has now enabled isolation of Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC) from umbilical cord tissue, which is generally being discarded immediately after child birth. These cells have been proven to be immunoprivileged and hence can be exploited without any hurdles of HLA matching. Thus, allogenic application of these MSCs can effectively restore back function through generation of micro environment, regenerating lost cells and secreting important growth factors promoting recovery.

Thus, allogenic application of MSCs can be deployed as the best investigational treatment regimen to help patients suffering from optic nerve atrophy to achieve better visual recovery.

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Stem Cell Treatment for Optic Neuritis

Optic neuritis is a demyelinating inflammation of the optic nerve; that is generally triggered by the immune destruction of surrounding myelin sheath. This demyelination can contribute to the visual disturbances, color blindness and pain in the eyes especially associated with eye movement or dull aching pain behind the eyes. Apparently in more advanced cases, it may indicate optic nerve abnormalities, neural damage, increased neural pressure and neurodegenerative disorders, such as multiple sclerosis. Thus, in fact the optic neuritis may lead to total visual loss, if not treated well in time.

The condition is mostly common in younger adults below 45 years; with suggestive altogether higher incidences in women than in men. In majority of patients, it is either associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) or ischemic optic neuropathy (Blood Clot). Thus besides deliberately promoting visual damage; it can often be related to the neural damage in MS that may be associated with locomotary and sensory functional loss.

As a matter of fact, some of the less common causes of optic neuritis may include:

  • Viral (measles, mumps and herpes) or bacterial infections (Lyme disease, cat-scratch fever and syphilis etc)
  • Sarcoidosis and Lupus
  • Drugs such as Quinine
  • Sinusitis
  • Genetic Predisposition
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Environmental exposure to toxins

Diagnosis is confirmed by signs which include reduced visual acuity, substantial decrease in the peripheral vision of the patient, reduced sense of colour discrimination and identification of physical abnormality in the pupil of the affected eye confirmed by Slit lamp examination or ophthalmoscope. Visible swelling, blood vessel enlargement and retro bulbar inflammation around the optic nerve are other associated symptoms.
Conventionally, the treatment of MS associated optic neuritis includes intravenous administration of steroidal medications with the notion to reduce optic nerve inflammation; however studies have reported various possible side effects, such as weight gain, mood swings, facial flushing, stomach upset, and sleep apnea. Moreover, long term exposure may dangerously promote organ damage or hormonal disturbances.
Conventional treatment with steroidal medications is associated with numerous side effects. A science of stem cells has a precise solution to limit those challenges; by maximizing neural regeneration, reduction in the inflammation causing glial cell damage and promoting the production of oligodendrocytes.
Stem cells are the naive cells in the body with the potential to differentiate into multiple cells of different lineages or origin. Accordingly, mesenchymal stem cells isolated from human umbilical cord have been reported to be the most potent cells, exhibiting anti inflammatory, immunomodulatory and angiogenic ability. The vast database generated from worldwide clinical studies have raised hope of millions of people, that stem cells therapy can be employed successfully to treat patients with optic neuritis and associated conditions. These cells are reportedly contributing to the stimulation of endogenous stem cells, once infused inside the body; in order to enforce prompt repair and regeneration of lost cells to restore back the function.
Thus, a unique approach of treating degenerative disorders like Optic Neuritis with the help of allogenic administration of mesenchymal stem cells have definitely proven to be very critical in transforming bench side discovery into beneficial therapy.

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Osteoarthritis & Increasing Access to Non Surgical Treatments

knee osteoarthritis, degradation of joints, knee replacement alternative

Worldwide many people are seeking treatments, in order to get symptomatic relief from pain and functional dependency, associated with their hip and knee osteoarthritis. Apparently, osteoarthritis is one of the most prevalent forms of arthritis, which is affecting more than 30-45 million people in developed countries and is characterized by breakdown of cartilages, pain and inflammation.

Although, osteoarthritis cannot be cured with conventional medical treatment; number of ways have been outlined to control symptoms associated with the condition, such as chronic pain, restriction of movement, stiffness, etc. Thus, accordingly by just incorporating key alternative therapies, mentioned below in your day to day lifestyle, it is now possible to cope up with osteoarthritis.

Weight Management

A Lot of studies have been conducted to confirm that people with arthritis can improve their functional quality of life by losing weight. Since arthritis and joint pain are strongly associated with increased burden on weight bearing joints; it is very crucial to reduce weight in order to decrease pressure on the weight bearing joints, which ultimately lead to reduced friction, decreased joint pain and decreased inflammation.

Exercise

Number of studies has confirmed that regular exercise is the key to avoid many health related issue in a person’s life. Thus, a planned work out can have an influential impact on reducing the functional disability and joint pain associated with arthritis. Accordingly, experts suggest that both range of motion as well as stretching exercises will be beneficial in reducing stiffness associated with joints, decreasing joint pain and improving practical ability to perform day to day activities.

Diet

Maintaining a healthy diet that is free from inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, sugar, tomatoes, potatoes, etc. can avoid inflammation and joint pain. Similarly, incorporation of anti-inflammatory food components, like cold water fish, omega 3 fatty acids, spicy food, etc; can provide relief from joint inflammation and swelling. In general, a thumb rule is to reduce portions with excess sugar but to consume lot of proteins and simple carbohydrates; to access maximum nutritional benefits.
Thus, by giving preference to balanced and nutritious diet; one can improve blood sugar level to facilitate proper circulation and hence initiate healing mechanism of the body.

Oral Supplements

For bearable to extreme joint pain and inflammation, some oral supplements such as non steroidal drugs can be prescribed in order to decrease sleep disturbances, ease out pain and reduce fatigue. However, it has to be noted that long term use of these drugs can be harmful in triggering other complications and hence should be consumed in case of emergency as prescribed by the treating physician.

Other Alternatives

Apart from the one listed above, other alternative treatment regimen can be applied to minimize pain and inflammation, and they can be:
• Hot and cold compresses
• Braces, inserts, supports, splints and physical exercises
• Acupuncture, as a natural way to improve circulation and reduce inflammation.
• Aromatherapy with lavender oil, castor oil, etc. along with Epsom salt is another natural way to get quick relief from joint pain.

However, it is always advisable to be in touch with an expert orthopedic for the right combination of treatments. Apparently with the scientific advancements and technological modifications, newer and better treatment modalities are being invented such as stem cells therapy.

Stem cells therapies have been identified to be having great potential in treating degenerative diseases, such as arthritis. Accordingly, lot of clinical studies have been registered and successfully completed with promising results, regarding stem cells’ capacity to stop/reduce the inflammation, reduce disease progression and achieve long term relief from chronic pain, stiffness and inflammation.

Thus, continuous research and in depth analysis of clinical evidences can possibly bring new advances and cure with stem cells therapy, for the Stem Cell Treatment For Osteoarthritis.